James White, for over ten years president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, insisted that Adventists who wished to be physicians and practice as health reformers should attend the leading medical schools in the country. But, at the same time, he wondered what effect the schools would have on their beliefs about healthful living. He was pleased when John Harvey Kellogg and Kate Lindsay (founder of the first Seventh-day Adventist school of nursing) and others successfully earned degrees from leading state schools of medicine, yet retained their full confidence in the health principles of the church.
In 1866 White had objected to increasing the size of the Western Health Reform Institute because of the lack of qualified physicians; but he said in 1877, "Now that we have men of ability, refinement, and sterling sense, educated at the best medical schools on the continent, we are ready to build.''1 Kellogg made a comprehensive study of similar institutions in the country. His plans for expanding the Institute met with unqualified approval from experts in the field. The building--then described as "mammoth"--was to be 130 feet long with an extension in the middle giving it a breadth of 137 feet. Estimated cost, $60,000. It was described as "the one par excellence of its kind in America. With an efficient corps of physicians...having a board of trustees with tried ability and judgment...with all the facilities that science and long experience can devise...with a wide and enviable reputation, and an ever-increasing patronage...[it] is destined to wield a mighty influence in the world...."2
The new building was dedicated April 10, 1878. The Institute (renamed the Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1877) and its principles now had the respect of the medical profession. It was, according to physicians of the Michigan State Medical Association, who examined it thoroughly, "entirely rational and Ôregular.'"
Thereafter the Sanitarium experienced a steady increase in patronage until late 1883, when it was embarrassed by insufficient accommodations. The board of directors authorized construction of a new wing to be 100 feet long and five stories high. This addition was completed in 1885.
Medical Education Begins
A School of Hygiene opened at the Sanitarium on January 14, 1878, with 75 students. The number soon rose to 150. So thorough was the course of study that any medical college in the United States would accept its certificate of graduation as satisfying part of the regular medical course requirements. Tuition for the 20-week course was $25. Room and board cost $1.60 per week.
In the spring of 1883 the institution tried to start a school of nursing, but only two students enrolled. On November 1, 1883, another call was made for students. So great was the demand for qualified nurses that Sanitarium physicians guaranteed placement for all proficient graduates. This time, so many responded who could not come on short notice that registration was postponed for two weeks. The six-month course was lengthened to two years at the end of the first six months. Each year the number of applicants increased.
In late 1889 the Sanitarium began the "Health and Temperance Missionary School," to staff not only the Sanitarium but also future medical institutions and to prepare workers for foreign missionary service. The General Conference Committee of the church endorsed the program, and at the end of the four-month class about 100 students were attending classes daily.
Early in the 1880s the Sanitarium issued calls for prospective medical students. In 1881 the institution offered a course of lectures for those who wanted "to prepare themselves to enter some first-class medical college." In 1884 Mrs. White said that the physician "occupies a position even more responsible than that of the minister of the gospel." She then outlined essential qualifications for physicians.3 They are to be "firm as a rock to principle," "kind and courteous to all," "strictly temperate," "free from the use of tobacco"; they must possess a "heaven-born dignity, a natural energy, force, and perseverance that will enable them to reach a high standard of excellence"; they must be men and women of prayer; "closely connected with the Great Physician of soul and body."4
The Sanitarium medical staff was greatly overworked. While it was imperative that more Christian physicians be educated, medical students needed to understand the difficulties of a career in medicine. Starkly Mrs. White pictured the physician as one whose duties often deprive him of rest, one sometimes the victim of "unmerited reproaches,...left to stand alone, the subject of Satan's fiercest temptations....
"Many, knowing how trying are the duties of the physician and how few opportunities physicians have for release from care, even upon the Sabbath, will not choose this for their lifework. More of the right kind of men are needed to devote themselves to this profession. Painstaking effort should be made to induce suitable men to qualify themselves for this work.''5
Mrs. White warned repeatedly against the dangers of attending schools of medicine where students would be brought into companionship with "skeptics, infidels, and the profligate." She lamented that only a few came through "like Joseph and Daniel, uncorrupted, firm as a rock to principle."6 She emphasized the difference between the work of the Christian physician and that of other physicians. "The work of the Christian physician does not end with healing the maladies of the body; his efforts should extend to the diseases of the mind, to the saving of the soul.... The physician should know how to pray.... Prayer will give the sick an abiding confidence; and many times if their cases are borne to the Great Physician in humble trust, it will do more for them than all the drugs that can be administered."7
"The physician needs more than human wisdom and power that he may know how to minister to the many perplexing cases of disease of the mind and heart with which he is called to deal.... He will be able to point his patients to Christ and teach them to carry all their cares and perplexities to the great Burden Bearer."8
In 1891 the church opened a two-story building on Jefferson Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to be used as a home for Seventh-day Adventist medical students attending the nearby state university. This was a major step in providing a Christian environment for Adventist medical students. The home was to be a "pleasant, healthful, homelike place, where order, decorum, and wholesome moral influences shall prevail, and a Christian spirit reside."9 Supervision of the home was placed on the class members themselves.
Genesis of a Seventh-day Adventist School of Medicine
In a long chain of circumstances, the discovery of diamonds in South Africa aided the medical missionary work of the church and the establishment of the first medical school for Seventh-day Adventist students. Two brothers, Francis and Henry Wessels, owned a farm in the diamond fields near Kimberley, South Africa. They were offered a handsome price for their property. After the sale, for three months they were impressed "to make a liberal contribution to medical missionary work." They contacted Dr. Kellogg and asked him what he would do with a gift of $40,000. "We will go to Chicago and start a medical missionary work,'' he replied.10 The new dispensary opened on June 25, 1893, in the Pacific Garden Mission on the corner of Van Buren Street and Fourth Avenue.
Two years later Kellogg started another dispensary in the southern part of the city, and together the two institutions served 20,000 people a year. Although originally there had been no thought of starting a medical school, Kellogg soon discovered that the patronage of the two dispensaries was sufficient to supply the clinical practice needed for such a school. And circumstances seemed to indicate that a school was now necessary.
Although most of the 20 students who lived in the Adventist home for medical students at Ann Arbor remained loyal to Christian principles, leaders of the medical missionary work feared that the influence of worldly associations and non-Christian teachers would undermine the students' ideals. Deeply concerned about this negative influence, Ellen White wrote in 1894, "Many have been unfitted to do missionary work by attending such schools.''11
The medical missionary work expanded so rapidly in the 1880s and 1890s that church leaders realized the need for educating more physicians, and in early 1895 they seriously considered starting a school of medicine for Adventist youth at Battle Creek rather than having to send them to secular schools.
By 1895 Battle Creek Sanitarium had earned the high respect of the medical profession. Its facilities, plus those of the two Chicago dispensaries, were as good as those in many of the medical schools, if not better. Kellogg and his associates were recognized as men of scientific standing. Already the educational programs of the Sanitarium had almost attained the level of those in a medical school.
The American Medical Missionary College
As many of the obstacles to starting a medical school were removed, the Sanitarium board voted to open the American Medical Missionary College (AMMC). Incorporated under the laws of the state of Illinois, the medical college was granted a charter by the Illinois legislature, July 3, 1895. The four-year program of instruction--as thorough as that of the best U.S. medical schools--was to be given partly in Chicago and partly in Battle Creek. Its students were to be only those who demonstrated Christian consecration and a missionary spirit. By the time AMMC opened on October 1, 1895, 41 students had enrolled, far more than the highest expectations of its leaders.
About a week before classes were to begin, the Sanitarium board decided that, although they lacked funds to meet some of the school's most urgent needs, they must proceed with its opening. They determined simply to trust in God to provide. The next day an elderly gentleman rang the bell at the office of the medical college president, took $2,000 out of his pocket, and donated it to the new college. According to Kellogg, the gift was wholly unsolicited and unexpected. It deepened the confidence of the institution's leaders in the divine Providence that had been guiding them. Nevertheless, a major problem soon developed that was to bring the institution to a crossroads.